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Newsletter: Today’s Headlines: The pandemic’s ‘most difficult moment’

Registered nurses at UCLA Medical Center hold a nighttime vigil
Registered nurses at UCLA Medical Center hold a candlelight vigil to alert the public about patient safety concerns as COVID-19 hospitalizations spike across the county.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Public health officials in some California counties are warning that unless the coronavirus surge can be stopped, hospitals could run out of beds in weeks.

TOP STORIES

The Pandemic’s ‘Most Difficult Moment’

As coronavirus infections have surged to more than 160,000 new cases per day around the United States, hospitals have been stretched to the limit. The same scenario is developing in California, where public health officials work desperately to shore up a state hospital system that’s contending with record numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Should recent trends continue, officials warn, there’s a chance the pandemic could overwhelm aspects of California’s healthcare system by mid-December. That’s why Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state is again on the brink of a wider coronavirus stay-at-home order for areas in the strictest, purple tier of California’s coronavirus reopening road map. Fifty-one of the state’s 58 counties are in that tier now.

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There were 7,787 coronavirus patients hospitalized statewide on Sunday, according to the latest available data. That’s the highest number recorded during the pandemic and an increase of roughly 89% from two weeks ago. Even more sobering is the fact that the current figures largely don’t include the recent deluge of infections — as COVID-19 hospitalizations reflect cases that were identified two to three weeks earlier, according to Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary.

Some counties are already taking additional steps aimed at tamping down transmission of the coronavirus. Los Angeles County has imposed its strictest rules in months, just as it surpassed 400,000 cumulative cases and broke a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations. Santa Clara County has ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for virtually anyone coming into the county from more than 150 miles away — with some exceptions, such as for people traveling for medical treatment.

Officials in both counties have warned that unless they can halt the coronavirus surge, hospitals could run out of beds in weeks. Even with the prospect of vaccines in the near future, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer put it bluntly: “We are at the most difficult moment in the pandemic.”

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

Moderna Inc. said it was asking U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as study results confirm that the shots offer strong protection — intensifying the race to begin limited vaccinations.

— Dr. Scott Atlas, a science advisor to President Trump who was skeptical of measures to control the coronavirus outbreak, is leaving his White House post.

— California has unveiled some of the nation’s strongest coronavirus testing guidelines for hospital personnel, calling for all workers at general acute-care hospitals to be tested weekly. Tests must also be administered to all newly admitted patients.

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— L.A.’s outdoor dining ban came from the county. But Mayor Eric Garcetti is still facing heat for it from restaurants that want to stay open and their patrons.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

A Skeptical Supreme Court

Trump has been seeking to exclude millions of immigrants living in the country illegally from the 2020 census count, but if the Supreme Court justices’ remarks at oral arguments Monday were any indication, that plan appears to have fizzled.

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None of the justices sounded prepared to endorse Trump’s policy, and two of his appointees — Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — told a Trump administration lawyer they doubted the legality of excluding millions of longtime residents from the census count.

California officials feared that Trump’s policy, if put into effect in the last weeks of his presidency, could not only diminish the state’s power in Congress but could cost cities, counties and school districts hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds over the next decade.

More Politics

President-elect Joe Biden has announced his senior economic team, confirming plans to nominate Janet Yellen as the first woman to head the Treasury Department.

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Arizona officials have certified the state’s election results, formalizing Biden’s narrow victory over Trump, even as the president’s attorneys continued making baseless claims of fraud in the vote count. In Wisconsin, Biden’s victory was certified after a partial recount that added to his 20,600-vote margin over Trump, who has promised to file a lawsuit seeking to undo the results.

More Corruption Charges at City Hall

Raymond Chan, a former senior aide to Garcetti, has been charged with racketeering, conspiracy, bribery and other crimes in the ongoing sprawling federal probe into corruption at City Hall, in a scheme that allegedly involved shaking down developers who sought help to push downtown real estate projects through the city’s approval process.

Chan’s attorney denied that Chan had broken any laws, describing him as an honest public servant who was “caught in the middle” of a messy political ecosystem populated by politicians seeking campaign contributions, developers desperate to get projects approved and lobbyists working as middlemen.

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Chan is the latest figure to be accused of playing a role in a sprawling scheme allegedly run by ousted Councilman Jose Huizar, who has pleaded not guilty to an array of charges.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

For children who grew up during the Cold War era, civil defense training was part of going to school.

On Dec. 1, 1950, Times staffers visited a third-grade class at Clifford Street School as the students were taught an early version of the drills that would become a hallmark of the era. They were told to prepare for “a bomb that blows up houses and makes the earth wiggle” and trained to hide under their desks when given a signal by their teacher.

According to the story that ran in the next day’s paper, the children needed a few tries but picked up the technique quickly.

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Dec. 1, 1950: Third-graders at Clifford Street School kneel at desks and cover their faces
Dec. 1, 1950: Third-graders at Clifford Street School kneel at desks and cover their eyes during a civil defense drill.
(Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo is pushing for the city to spend up to $46 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to buy an apartment building in Chinatown, saying the move would spare dozens of tenants from facing steep rent increases. But aid is quickly running out.

— A year and a half after a USC report exposed “a palpable climate of anti-Blackness at Southwestern College,” five current and former Black employees at the San Diego County community college have filed a discrimination lawsuit alleging years of poor treatment.

— Four L.A. County sheriff’s officials are refusing to testify in the coroner’s inquest into the deputy shooting death of Andres Guardado, invoking their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, even though none of them has been accused of a crime.

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— A combination of bone-dry conditions and gusty Santa Ana winds is raising new concerns of elevated fire risk in Southern California this week.

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NATION-WORLD

NATO‘s secretary-general said the military alliance is grappling with a dilemma over its future in Afghanistan, as the U.S. starts pulling troops out while attacks by the Taliban and extremist groups mount.

— It just got harder for the U.S. to punish airlines for unfair and deceptive practices, consumer groups say, because of a new federal policy adopted at the behest of an airline trade group.

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— A bill to restrict images of police has created an uproar in France, with critics saying that it threatens efforts to document police brutality, especially in impoverished immigrant neighborhoods.

— The pachyderm dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant” after languishing alone for years in a Pakistani zoo was greeted on his arrival in Cambodia by chanting Buddhist monks and was then sent on his way to a wildlife sanctuary.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— For years, the Hallmark Channel was the king of holiday movies. Now other networks — from OWN to HBO — want in, setting a competitive season with dozens of new releases. Meanwhile, Hallmark, which made nearly two dozen original Christmas movies last year, just made its first about a gay couple.

— A year after her conviction in the college admissions scandal, Felicity Huffman has inked a deal for a comedy pilot for ABC.

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Dolly Parton got her start writing the saddest of songs. So how did she become a beacon of joy? A new book explores her rise.

— Opera singer John Holiday turned a pandemic job loss into TV gold on “The Voice.”

BUSINESS

— When it comes to money managers, Scott Minerd, Guggenheim Partners’ chief investment officer, is unconventional. He’s a Republican, a Wall Street financier — and a supporter of “Medicare for all.”

— Online shoppers in the U.S. were expected to drop a record-busting $12.7 billion on Cyber Monday as the pandemic pushes holiday shopping further online on the busiest e-commerce day of the year.

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SPORTS

Rachel Buehler Van Hollebeke has been to the top of two Olympics medal stands and a Women’s World Cup final. Then she left soccer behind for medical school and a spot on the front lines of the pandemic.

— Unable to play in their own stadium because of COVID-19 restrictions, the San Francisco 49ers will share a temporary home with the division-rival Arizona Cardinals.

— How healthy are the Clippers? And will their young players take a leap forward? Those are just two of five questions the team faces heading into training camp.

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OPINION

— Because they’re protected by civil service laws, L.A. County’s incoming district attorney can’t just fire prosecutors who don’t support his progressive vision. Instead, George Gascón will have to win them over — and quickly enough to satisfy voters and reform advocates, The Times’ editorial board writes.

Factory farming breeds deadly diseases and makes outbreaks inevitable, and to avert pandemics like our current one, we must stop raising animals in such conditions, writes Wendy Orent, the author of books on diseases.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— At first, driving for Uber seemed like lucrative work for many Kenyans, and they bought and leased cars to do it. But after Uber saturated the market, slashed their pay and then introduced cheaper categories of cars, many drivers are now drowning in debt. (NBC News)

— We might be eager for life after the pandemic. But our pets might need some paw-holding. (Washington Post)

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ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

The Catmosphere Laguna was billed as Orange County’s first cat cafe when it opened in August 2018. Now, because of the pandemic, the cozy cafe where customers could play with adoptable cats and kittens has closed. Owner Gail Allyn Landau said the business’ closure won’t stop her from continuing to connect rescued felines with their “furever homes” through her foundation. As for Catmosphere? Once there’s a widespread vaccine, it might just land on its feet again in a new location in the spring.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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